Matthew Sussman responds to Livia Woods

Livia Woods’s response raises an important question: can the concept of knowledge be expanded to include not knowing, or are these two totally different things? For Woods argues that it is one thing to know the body and another to acknowledge what we cannot know about it. But does this lack of knowledge constitute “unknowing,” or rather does that word refer to the body’s unique way of knowing that is distinctly not-knowing? I can’t help but be reminded of Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” phrases that still pose a potent epistemological conundrum.

If Woods does indeed distinguish between somatic ways of “unknowing” and what Cohn might call “cognitive” ways of knowing, then we can see how both scholars still rely (as most of us do) upon the classic dichotomy between mind and body, cognition and feeling, reason and affect, even as they seek to problematize or transcend it. Recent developments in cognitive theory could play an important role here in helping to efface—or at least substantially to reconfigure—the false yet durable idea that mind and body are ontologically separate entities, an idea that the last fifty years of cognitive science have revealed to be an obfuscation. Hence, I wonder if Cohn’s book might not offer a compelling point of entry for us to radically rethink the relationship between mind and body specifically by showing us how thoroughly we can “know” (or experience or sense or feel) what is putatively beyond the realm of knowledge, or how knowing about not-knowing, or feeling something that one doesn’t “know,” are not adequately contained by our current epistemological frameworks.

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